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growl for macI recently noticed that several MakeUseOf articles referred to Growl, a notification program that has been around for quite a while. However, Growl may be unfamiliar to many new Mac users and switchers. It is a program I highly recommend for Mac users who spend a considerable amount of time at their computer.

What is Growl? It’s a System Preferences program that displays notifications when certain things happen on your computer. Once you install Growl for Mac, you can select and configure applications that it supports to determine which notifications you want to receive. Growl supports notifications for web browsers, email, feed readers, games, file sharing, Twitter clients, Apple Mail, iTunes, and much more.

growl for mac

Growl is a free program, so if you’re curious about it, download it and install it on your computer. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Configuring Programs

After Growl is installed, open System Preferences on your Mac and then click on Growl which should be in the “Other” section of Preferences.


growl mac

First, you will probably want to have Growl start when you login to your computer, so check that box. You can also select which corner of your desktop you want notifications to appear.

growl mac

To get a better sense of how notifications will appear, click on the Applications button to see which applications already on your Mac that Growl supports. Growl seems to primarily support third-party Mac programs. Sometimes when you download and install programs on your Mac, you will be asked if you want Growl support for that application.

growl mac

Now let’s look at an example of a Growl-supported application. Take for instance, the free ad-supported Twitter client, Tweetie. If you’re a frequent Tweetie user, you can use Growl to notify you when you receive new direct messages, mentions, or all new tweets.

For Growl-supported applications for which you want notifications, select the app and then click on the Configure button to configure settings. Most application settings will be the same for each Growl-supported program.

mac notifications

First you can select which notification style you want for a particular program. The default style looks like this:

mac notifications

Growl comes installed with 15 different styles. You can preview each style by simply clicking on it.

mac notifications

By default, notifications will appear in the upper-left corner of your desktop, but you can customize that position by selecting another corner of your desktop.


Click on the Notifications button and you will get more important settings that you want to pay attention to. In the case of Tweetie (and other applications), you can select one of three notifications. You will probably not want to select Timeline because it will deliver up all the new tweets you receive every five or so minutes.

You will probably want to select Direct Message or Mentions.

As you can see, other options include selecting a unique display style for an application, as well as selecting how long you want to the notification to appear. If you select Always, you will have to click off each notification to get rid of them.

You can select if you want a sound played when you get notifications. And you can also select the priority for how and what order notifications appear for each application. Under the Display Options button there are numerous other display settings that you can choose from. Feel free to experiment.

Some applications may also require you to configure preference settings in the application itself, in order for Growl notifications to work. This is the case for Tweetie — its preferences include Growl settings for each account you have set up in the client.

growl for mac

It’s quite easy to get carried away with Growl. So make sure you are judicious in selecting the number of notifications you get popping up on your desktop.

There are also other Growl applications like GrowMail and GrowlTunes that work similarly to the instructions above.

If you are a Growl user, let us know how you like it, and which favorite applications you like to receive Growl notifications for. If you are a Windows users, try Growl for Windows or Snarl.

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  1. Saikat Basu
    August 20, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Growl is cool, but it doesn't seem to include notifications for chat apps (except Pidgin) like Skype, GTalk, Yahoo etc.

  2. Bakari
    August 17, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Thank you both, for you feedback. Angela, I think I use Growl for at least four applications related to the freelance work I do. So understand what you mean by it being a lifeline.

  3. David Levine
    August 16, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    I just started using Growl a couple of weeks ago and have been quite happy. I like how customizable it is and the default pop-up style really looks like part of the OS.

  4. Angela Alcorn
    August 16, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Growl is great. Twitter + Growl = Awesome. It's a freelancer lifeline. :)